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Biden isn’t the only politician to fall: Why we can’t look away

President Biden’s onstage tumble at the U.S. Air Force Academy made headlines around the world. But he’s far from the only world leader or political candidate who has taken a highly visible fall.

From Chinese leader Xi Jinping (whose 2019 slip commentators dubbed the “great fall of China”) to Gerald Ford (whose fall while disembarking Air Force One in 1975 was the subject of late-night comedy skits) and other politicians around the world, trips and tumbles are fodder for laughs, cringes — and hot takes.

When the mighty fall, we just can’t look away.

“It breaks the image of infallibility of powerful figures,” Bart Cammaerts, a professor of politics and communication at the London School of Economics told The Washington Post. Projecting the right image is serious business for politicians. In Biden’s case, his critics immediately used it as an opportunity to highlight the oldest U.S. president’s age and fitness for office.

But there is also something captivating about politicians appearing more human. “Think of slapstick comedy, breaking the seriousness and ceremonial aspect of the event,” Cammaerts said.

“With people in power, there is so much effort to control the public image — body language, speech, facial expressions — that seeing all those things fall away all at once, in a total loss of control, is particularly gripping,” said Dan Stevens, professor of political behavior in the United States and Britain at Exeter University.

Here are other memorable political falls or trips.


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